Physical abuse and violence are completely unacceptable and should be universally condemned. Fathers must protect our homes from the many short-term and long-term consequences of physical abuse. For this post, we’ll summarize content from the experts at National Domestic Abuse Hotline (800.799.SAFE)
Safety planning is an ongoing process that should be tailored to a family’s specific circumstances. If violence does occur, children should be equipped to protect themselves with age-appropriate resources to remove themselves from an abusive situation. Advocates at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline are available 24/7 to discuss ways to create a safety plan.
Children & Domestic Violence
Children who experience abusive situations are often forced to process complex emotions without support or guidance. A child’s physical and mental health are essential for their well-being, both in the short term and in the long term. Instill and reinforce for each child that in a moment of crisis, their first responsibility is their own safety. Convince them that their physical welfare matters most. Dad should also help them rest assured that any violence is not their fault.
Perpetrators of physical abuse often commit emotional and verbal abuse as well, resorting to tactics such as threats, harassment, and manipulation. While by no means an exhaustive list, examples include preventing or blocking children from seeing their other parent, calling, or threatening to call police or immigration enforcement with lies and/or blackmail, humiliation, or lying to kids to turn them against the other parent.
Fathers should teach that abuse is never okay, even when it comes from someone they love. Help children identify people other than their parents who they feel comfortable with in case they need to talk to someone; make sure they know how to contact any trusted confidants. Many domestic violence shelters offer children’s counseling—contact a Hotline advocate to identify local resources. Above all else, remind children of the unconditional love we have for them and that we will do anything we can to protect them.
Physical Safety at Home
Children should know when, how, and who to contact during an emergency. If a situation begins to escalate, there should be an established plan for where they can go. By proactively creating a plan, children will know what to do during a moment of crisis. Help them identify a place that they can go to if they’re afraid and see to it that they have something calming to focus on for comfort. Teach them that even though they may want to protect their family, they shouldn’t try to intervene in moments of violence.
Planning for Unsupervised Visits
Especially if their mother has a history of physically abusive behavior, create a separate safety plan for situations in which children may spend unsupervised time with her. If they are old enough, brainstorm ways for them to stay safe. Help them identify where they can get to a phone, who they can contact, how they can leave the house, and where they can go. If possible, give them a cell phone so they are equipped to call for help in case of an emergency.
Planning for Safe Custody Exchanges
If the threat of violence persists post-breakup, avoid exchanging custody at either our house or our ex’s. Instead, meet in a safe, public place like a restaurant, store, police station parking lot, or other area with visibility. Bring a trusted friend or family member to exchange custody or ask a liaison to make the exchange. Find ways to schedule custody exchanges without having to endure an interaction with the ex. One idea is to arrange for our ex to pick the children up from school at the end of the day after we drop them off in the morning, or vice versa, eliminating the potential of an unsafe encounter.
Emotional Safety Planning with Children
Children who experience abuse are forced to process complex emotions but are often ill-equipped to do so in healthy ways. If a romantic partner is at risk of becoming violent, it is best to terminate the relationship. To the extent this doesn’t happen, create an emotional safety plan with our children to help them navigate their emotions in ways that protect their short-term and long-term emotional well-being. An emotional safety plan should be age-appropriate, and structured differently for younger children than for teenagers.
Children must know that physical abuse isn’t their fault and that it is never right, even when the person being violent is someone they love. Help them understand that we want everyone to be safe, so we need a plan in case of an emergency. Context is important, instead of saying, “We’re planning what you can do when ____ becomes violent,” use phrases like, “We’re practicing what to do in an emergency,” If possible, enroll them in a counseling program or therapy. Try to find a program that is culturally relevant and specializes in child counseling.
Moms, dads, and children deserve to live in a safe and stable home environment, far removed from the risk of violence. With exposure to ongoing physical abuse, children might view it as normal, inappropriately developing a tolerance to needless suffering. Physical abuse during childhood can lead to multi-generational repercussions if children then grow up to imitate violent attitudes and behaviors in their own lives. Fathers must protect the family by establishing a zero-tolerance policy for physical abuse among family members.
“The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence. He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds. For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.” —Psalm 11:5-7 NLT
After severely injuring Peter Driscal in an empty parking lot, mischief-maker Cole Matthews is in major trouble. But instead of jail time, Cole is given another option: attend Circle Justice, an alternative program that sends juvenile offenders to a remote Alaskan Island to focus on changing their ways. Desperate to avoid prison, Cole fakes humility and agrees to go.
Trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. Bessel van der Kolk explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.
“This is without a doubt the most informative and useful book yet written on the subject of abusive men. Women who are armed with the insights found in these pages will be on the road to recovering control of their lives.” —Jay G. Silverman, Ph.D., Director, Violence Prevention Programs, Harvard School of Public Health
Designed with the idea of imparting practical wisdom in mind, the questions and exercises found in the workbook will enable you to learn and discover more about yourself, point you in the right direction for fruitful development, and create ample space for you to grow. To reap the most benefits from Bessel van der Kolk’s book, do approach the questions with an open mind, and answer them as best as you can with complete self honesty.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.